Friday, September 19, 2008


An email from David Tyler []:

I am planning to put in a complaint about the standard of Iain Stewart's coverage of the Climate Sceptic issue (BBC 2: The Climate Wars). He had plenty of clips showing them in denial, but very little allowing them to say why they take a dissenting position. He presented the Hockey Stick graph in a positive light, giving viewers very little appreciation of the scientific controversies that it has generated. For example, material the BBC itself has reported was omitted completely.

The Great Global Warming Swindle documentary got a mention, and the evidence for climate being driven by the sun was conceded to be relevant before the last few decades, but Stewart suggested that the temperature plots providing the demonstration for this finished prematurely. He provided an updating, which he said demonstrated the sceptics were wrong - but the global temperature data he presented showed an exponential increase - the reality is that the graph has plateaued since 2000. He provided no opportunity for a sceptic to comment on the point he was making and presented his own view as definitive. He did not work through the implications for the Hockey Stick graph if climate was driven by solar energy prior to 1960. He showed some clips of Christopher Monckton talking about his dissenting views, but this did not explore the science.

The body language of Stewart suggested that he was not interested in exploring the reasons for dissent. This programme is declared to be a feature by the BBC, but it shows a highly polarised perspective: science vs politically-inspired dissent. Viewers would come away with the view that climate sceptics are funded by organisations with vested interests, and that their dissent cannot be described as science. This message is a complete distortion of the situation, and consequently is not in the public interest.

Re persecution of "Dr Scot Jnr":

Further to my recent reports about NHS attacks on free speech by doctors, I thought it fair to make clear that the whole of the NHS should not be tarred with this. Below are particulars of the very senior feminazis actually involved

Professor Elisabeth Paice saw the scatological comment on the forum about Prof. Black and reported it to Prof. Black. Paice is Dean Director, Postgraduate Medical and Dental Education for London; Chair of the Conference of Postgraduate Medical Deans; Chair of the forum for Modernising Medical Careers.

From a recent anonymous post on the NHS Exposed blog: "Readers may be interested to learn that the London Dean involved is also implicated in copying material from DNUK in order to report another doctor to the GMC. This doctor has sadly committed suicide. Whilst cause and effect are hard to prove, the involvement of Elisabeth Paice in yet another tragic abuse of power has caused much anger amongst doctors, as is her unaccountability."

Professor Dame Carol Black. Either Black or Paice called Needham to get Scot suspended. She is National Director for Health and Work, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Chair of the Nuffield Trust. From Wikipedia: "Junior NHS Doctors were upset when Dame Carol Black was re-elected Chairperson of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (unopposed) in 2008. One junior surgeon launched a scatological attack on Dame Carol on the doctor discussion forum which resulted in Dame Carol's colleage, Professor (Dean) Elizabeth Paice complaining to the junior's dean in Highland (Professor Gillian Needham). The junior doctor was suspended. This caused outrage in the medical blogging and discussion forums, with many authors calling this an abuse of power by the Deans as Carol Black is a public figure and many juniors were justifiably very upset by the problems with the Modernising Medical Careers changes to junior doctor training and held that Dame Carol Black should accept responsibility for the problems that occurred."

Professor Gillian Needham is Post Graduate Dean of Medical Studies, Aberdeen University; Head of the Highland Deanery which is responsible for overseeing Dr Scot Jnr's surgeon training. (Note, she is NOT his employer so has no legal right to suspend/sack him. She allegedly prevailed upon Garry Coutts, Chair of NHS Highland (Scot's employers) to do the deed).


British climate and energy policy is incoherent and needs an overhaul, dumping carbon targets and building more coal and nuclear power stations to stop the lights going out, a pro-nuclear scientist said. A report entitled "A Pragmatic Energy Policy for the UK", by Professor Ian Fells and Candida Whitmill, said renewables would not fill the impending energy gap so old nuclear and coal plants had to be kept going while new ones were built urgently. "Current UK energy policy is not fit for purpose. Something has to be done about it if we are not going to run into serious problems around about the middle of the next decade," Fells, an advocate of nuclear power, told reporters.

The government should guarantee a minimum electricity price to the power companies for the next 30 years to give them a secure investment outlook to finance the 4 billion pounds each nuclear power plant is likely to cost, he added. "We are looking at something that looks like a slow motion train crash," Fells said, accusing the government of vacillating over climate change and energy policy, starving the power industry of direction and reducing investment to a minimum.

The same held true across Europe where nuclear power was resurgent as governments woke up to the fact that they had delayed important baseload energy investment decisions for too long and placed too much reliance on intermittent renewables.

Environmentalists were outraged at the recommendations in the report, issued on Wednesday. "Professor Fells has a long standing love affair with the technologies of the 20th century, but as time goes by his fetish for coal and nuclear power looks increasingly naive," said Greenpeace chief scientist Doug Parr. "All over the world jobs are being created in the renewable energy sector, but Britain has been left behind for too long by the negative, white flag approach to climate change that this report represents."

The report, commissioned by industrialist Andrew Cook, who told the news conference he feared a complete societal breakdown if there were widespread power cuts, said energy security had now to be given absolute priority over climate change policies. It was a view echoed by Whitmill: "Today's credit crunch is a head cold compared with the double pneumonia this country will suffer if we don't implement an energy policy urgently."

Whitmill said one-third of Britain's electricity generating capacity was set for shutdown within 12 years either due to old age or European Union carbon emissions restrictions that come into force in 2015. The report said Britain, facing a yawning gulf between electricity demand and supply, had to breach the EU rules and keep the old coal plants going even though this went completely counter to climate policy of cutting carbon.


The British Nanny State marches on

Stuck at a train crossing? Turn off the engine or pay fine

Motorists who leave their engines idling unnecessarily face an on-the-spot fine under plans being considered by councillors. West Sussex County Council is seeking to reduce exhaust emissions by penalising drivers who refuse to turn off their engines while parked or waiting at railway crossings. A pilot scheme expected to be introduced in January will allow traffic wardens to fine motorists who break the new rule. A council spokesman said: "We want to get people out of the habit of leaving their cars ticking over out of convenience." Signs are already in place at level crossings ordering people to switch their engines off.

"We would stress that this is just an investigation at this stage," the spokesman said. "If it was ever introduced the fixed penalty would probably be œ20. But we would hope that the vast majority of motorists would be willing to cooperate."

An Air Quality Management Area has already been set up in Shoreham, where the trial will take place. It will be expanded across the county if it proves successful. Traffic wardens will be instructed to issue a warning to drivers who are caught with their engines idling. There will, however, be exemptions for lorries with freezer units and other vehicles that need to keep their engines ticking over.

Roger Turner, 30, a taxi driver from West Sussex, said: "Who gave them the right to tell us to switch off our engines? It's not like we try to waste fuel.It's just another example of the nanny state, telling us what we can and can't do."

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: "I think the council has to be careful. They need to run a high-profile campaign if they are going to do this because to prosecute people without telling them about it first would be very harsh."



This scare never seems to die. Weak epidemiological associations below based on small samples of sufferers -- with causal inferences speculative, as usual. Interesting that one of the study participants did not think much of the results. Note that the vast majority of the sample were NOT ill and yet had bisphenol in them also. Also note that an unspecified number of both "heart" and "diabetic" patients were UNDIAGNOSED heart-disease and diabetes sufferers!

Exposure to a ubiquitous chemical used in plastic baby bottles, food cans and a host of other products may increase the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, a study suggests. In the first significant study of the effects of bisphenol A (BPA), one of the world's most mass-produced substances, researchers found that even small traces in the body were potentially linked to health problems.

BPA, used in hardened plastics including food containers and compact discs, can be found in detectable levels in nine out of ten people. It enters the body primarily through food and drink but also through drinking water, dental sealants, through the skin or inhalation of household dusts.

The researchers, from the Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, found that relatively high levels of the chemical present in urine were associated with a threefold risk of cardiovascular disease and double the risk for type 2 diabetes. With possible public health implications, the results "deserve scientific follow-up", the study's authors said.

Previous studies of adverse effects in animals have created concern over long-term, low-level exposure to BPA in humans. But the findings, from a "snapshot" study of the American population, do not prove that the chemical causes health problems, the researchers said.

Heart disease is reckoned Britain's biggest killer, with about 270,000 heart attacks occurring each year, while 100,000 cases of type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity, are diagnosed each year.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at BPA levels in the urine of 1,455 American adults, and whether they had ever been diagnosed with one of eight main diseases, including arthritis and thyroid disease. In total 79 had had heart attacks, chest pain or other types of cardiovascular disease and 136 had diabetes. The average level of BPA exposure was 20 micrograms per day.

But 25 per cent of participants with highest BPA concentrations (between 35 to 50 micrograms per day) were nearly three times likelier to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease than those in the lowest 25 per cent (10 micrograms per day). Similarly, those with highest BPA concentrations were 2.4 times likelier to have had diabetes diagnosed compared with those at lowest levels. Current guidelines suggest that an adult can safely consume up to 3,250 micrograms a day, a much higher amount than the study suggests.

BPA leaches from drinks bottles made from some polycarbonate plastics and from the epoxy linings of canned foods, especially if heated. "BPA-free" baby bottles have been sold in recent years, but there is little information for consumers on BPA.

David Melzer, who led the study at the University of Exeter, said: "At the moment we can't be sure BPA is the direct cause of the extra cases of heart disease and diabetes. If it is, some cases of these conditions could be prevented by reducing BPA exposure."

Iain Lang, a co-author of the study, added, "Measuring who has disease and high BPA levels at a single point in time cannot tell you which comes first. I'm not changing my behaviour on the basis of this single study."


Association of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration With Medical Disorders and Laboratory Abnormalities in Adults

By Iain A. Lang et al.

Context: Bisphenol A (BPA) is widely used in epoxy resins lining food and beverage containers. Evidence of effects in animals has generated concern over low-level chronic exposures in humans.

Objective: To examine associations between urinary BPA concentrations and adult health status.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Cross-sectional analysis of BPA concentrations and health status in the general adult population of the United States, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004.

Participants were 1455 adults aged 18 through 74 years with measured urinary BPA and urine creatinine concentrations. Regression models were adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, income, smoking, body mass index, waist circumference, and urinary creatinine concentration. The sample provided 80% power to detect unadjusted odds ratios (ORs) of 1.4 for diagnoses of 5% prevalence per 1-SD change in BPA concentration, or standardized regression coefficients of 0.075 for liver enzyme concentrations, at a significance level of P <.05.

Main Outcome Measures: Chronic disease diagnoses plus blood markers of liver function, glucose homeostasis, inflammation, and lipid changes.

Results: Higher urinary BPA concentrations were associated with cardiovascular diagnoses in age-, sex-, and fully adjusted models (OR per 1-SD increase in BPA concentration, 1.39; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18-1.63; P = .001 with full adjustment). Higher BPA concentrations were also associated with diabetes (OR per 1-SD increase in BPA concentration, 1.39; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.21-1.60; P <.001) but not with other studied common diseases.

In addition, higher BPA concentrations were associated with clinically abnormal concentrations of the liver enzymes gamma -glutamyltransferase (OR per 1-SD increase in BPA concentration, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.14-1.46; P < .001) and alkaline phosphatase (OR per 1-SD increase in BPA concentration, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.18-1.85; P = .002).

Conclusion: Higher BPA exposure, reflected in higher urinary concentrations of BPA, may be associated with avoidable morbidity in the community-dwelling adult population.

JAMA. 2008;300(11):1303-1310

Antibiotics given to delay labour can harm baby

Another disgraceful attempt to worry pregnant women. The report below is a very partial summary of two papers that were published simultaneously. This paper found no effect of antibiotic use while this paper found no effect of antibiotic use on anything other than rate of cerebral palsy, which was rare in any case. It's just data dredging. If you look at enough variables, you will find differences by chance alone. The real conclusion should be that antibiotics in pregnancy are almost certainly safe

Giving women antibiotics to delay premature labour may increase the risk of developmental problems for the baby, a study suggests. The study by the University of Leicester, published in The Lancet, assessed seven-year-olds whose mothers had been involved in a clinical trial at the time of their birth. The children of those given an antibiotic were much more likely to have cerebral palsy. The Health Department has written to doctors asking them to discontinue the practice, which is not routine.

Experts say that the more common use of antibiotics for pregnant women who show signs of an infection when their waters break early can be lifesaving, and should be continued.

Many new mothers get too little postnatal support, a poll of 6,000 mothers by found. Six out of ten felt they had not seen their health visitor enough during the first year of their child's life.


Children are best educated at home

Britain: It is back-to-school this week. All over the country, stressed parents made last-minute dashes to the shops to force children to try on clumpy school shoes. Then they got up early, hurried their children into cars or on to buses, got stuck in jams, arrived later than intended and said a rushed goodbye. Then they found that the children had gone. Relief may have been mixed with melancholy, loss and a hope that the children were all right behind those high windows, told what to do by strangers.

The return to school is a well-established part of the journey of life. It seems normal, right and inevitable. But actually it is none of these things. Yes, it is normal in the early 21st century. But if modern civilisation started about 10,000 years ago, this way of treating children has been "normal" only for the last 2 per cent of the time. It is a new, artificial construct designed to provide education at low cost. It certainly was not created to provide a pleasant or socialising experience for children.

Schools are not clearly "right", either. People tend to think that what everyone does and what they themselves experienced must be right. But there is nothing obviously ideal about delivering your children to other people who do not love them as you do, and who are likely to teach them things with which you may disagree. And sending children to school is not inevitable. Under the law, children must be educated. But they do not have to be educated at a school. There is another way.

Home education is not for everyone - not even a large minority. It is a luxury in most cases. The parent who becomes a home teacher earns no money. There have to be savings, or partners, husbands or wives must be willing to pay the bills. But lots of well-educated wives do not work and could save money by home educating. For those who can find a way, home-educating is a glorious, liberating, empowering, profoundly fulfilling thing to do. Far more people should try it. At present it is estimated that about 50,000 children are taught this way. The number has jumped from a decade ago but is still very few compared with America.

I have just finished two years of teaching my younger daughter, Alex, now 11. We have become very close. Many fathers see their children at supper time and a bit more at weekends. Alex and I were with each other all day, every weekday, in all sorts of places and circumstances. We knew and shared thoughts, ideas and feelings. I believe the closeness that we developed will benefit our relationship for the rest of our lives.

We had enjoyable educational trips to France, Italy and China. Instead of learning about the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius from a text book, Alex and I climbed up to the rim and peered into the still-smoking crater. We visited Pompeii and Oplontis to see the parts of Roman civilisation that had been preserved by the most famous of its eruptions.

One of the beauties of home education is that you can teach children things that you want them to know - some of which are not taught in most schools. I wanted Alex to know something of the origin of the Universe, and astronomy. We studied far more history than schools do, including overviews of Rome, China and Britain. We looked at the Second World War, using DVDs of the superb Channel 4 series on it. We started learning Italian. But all parents would have different ideas of what they want their children to know. You can go for whatever you think important. This is freedom, thrilling freedom. You don't have to teach just what some civil servant in Whitehall has lighted upon and stuck in the national curriculum.

It is strange that children all over the country study the same bits of history - all knowing certain periods and hardly studying outside them. It verges on the totalitarian. With home education, there can be enormous diversity. At the same time, there is nothing to stop one's child taking the same GCSEs and Alevels that others are taking.

But some of the greatest gains from home education are not easily measured or tested. They come from the daily flow of conversation - the times when your child asks you a question and a conversation follows.

You may make an observation, or your child may see something and become interested in it. If that happens, you can encourage the interest. This is developing the ability to think and discuss. It is a big contrast with what happens at school where it is impossible in a class of 25 to chase the individual interests of everyone present or to enter separate conversations. It may even be the case that schools can damage a child's curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. I have seen children totally turned off education and making no attempt to hide how bored they are.

The widespread concern is that a home-educated child misses out on "socialisation". But I have never heard anyone offer any evidence for this. As far as I know, the evidence from America is rather the other way - home-educated children are better socialised. We know that young children left in inferior nurseries and not given much attention can get withdrawn or aggressive. It is possible, to put it no higher, that being left at school and not given much attention can, in some cases, have a similar, if milder, damaging effect on older children.

You don't have to educate a child for all his or her years of learning. It could be for just one or two. Several teachers have told me that they would love to take their children on a round-the-world journey, perhaps when their offspring are aged somewhere between 11 and 14. I would recommend it.

Home education, however you structure it, can bring you and your child closer together. You can both learn. You will have shared experiences that will enrich your relationship for ever. Yes, there will also be arguments and tears. But children and parents who never experience it are missing out badly.


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